Have you heard of the term “career cushioning”? We are inundated with headlines about layoffs and cutbacks in the news, and employee reactions are equally stifling, with many working hard to create a backup plan. As Forbes notes, the term is derived from the phrase "to cushion your landing." Given recent layoffs in Big Tech, the idea of career cushioning doesn't surprise anyone and having an economic landscape like this can cause some to worry about a post-pandemic firing spree.
C-level executives in industries most affected by layoffs and cutbacks should be aware of this term and the reaction this may cause with their current and remaining workforce. Whether or not the action of career cushioning is ethical is something that needs to be addressed separately, especially as having one foot out of the door has a knock-on effect within the organisation, whether that’s on efficiency, task completion, workplace morale etc.
As a result of the pronounced fear, employees feel anxious about their own futures, and thus seek new jobs, a time-consuming process at a time when firms rely on their employees to achieve their financial goals. It's not ideal timing for leadership with this behaviour occurring- at a time when employers should be able to draw on employee goodwill and energy.
According to LinkedIn's Global Talent Trends report from October, flexibility continues to be a top priority for employees, yet only about one-third of business leaders say it is a top priority. Other drivers include Compensation and benefits as the number one priority with Balance being a runner up.
Of course, not all employees will be seeking a new opportunity, as many will recognise that performance reviews and bonus season are approaching, and therefore are willing to put in the extra effort to support their firms with loyalty and hard work rather than moving to a new role. It may be easy to recognise those that are distracted by looming headlines as career cushioning will likely lead to poor work quality.
In order to help employees, gain insight into their career trajectory and performance, we recommend executives have regular one-on-one conversations with them. During these discussions, it is important to discuss what the employee wants, where he or she is headed, and how to get there. Even if the career path leads outside the organisation, that is okay, too. Remember that not all employee job searches are bad. When an employee is underperforming or poorly suited, the practice can facilitate a mutually beneficial exit.
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